Jeff Probst Is the Ultimate ‘Survivor’

“One thing is clear: he loves it,” said Mr. Probst’s buddy, director Tyler Perry, in an email. “Look at him sitting in the rain at tribal council. He’s not a diva. That is the spirit of the game.”

Authenticity, as “Survivor” fans have grown to expect, entails flaws and all. It means that, per Mr. Probst’s directive, the show cannot change the intent of someone’s statements during editing. It’s meant witnessing one participant demand that another remove her artificial teeth during a tribal council as retaliation for a snub. It’s even entailed watching a gay competitor out a trans tribemate, comparing his refusal to confess his transness with deceit.

Mr. Probst’s authenticity has also put him squarely in the crosshairs of the show’s vociferous fan base. “On the programme, I’m not always perfect,” Mr. Probst admitted. “I’ve spoken things I regret now, and I’ve held opinions I’d modify now. That was me at the time, being vulnerable and learning.”

Sarah Lacina, one of the contestants, delivered a tribal council statement about gender bias: Female candidates, she claimed, felt limited in their ability to compete in the same way that males could. Mr. Probst responded by pointing out his own bias of calling males by their last names but not women since he “played sports where every other lad called them by their last names because that’s what all your favourite sportsmen did.”

Mr. Probst stated, “I’ve never lost that part of myself.” “Those are the times that make me happy. When you recognize it’s true and that it’s something you can alter, you’re also showing other guys, ‘You might want to check yourself as well.'”

The show has a #MeToo moment in 2019 when a female competitor accused a male tribemate of improper groping. After a warning and production discussions with the actors, the show kept him around for a few more episodes, finally allowing the players to figure out how to best manage a situation. (He was later removed from the game off-camera after an unspecified incident with a member of the show’s production team.) Fans and critics alike expressed dissatisfaction with how the show and Mr. Probst handled the situation, with The New York Times’s James Poniewozik calling it “inept, shameful, and evasive.”